Not Just Another Book Tour

patrick kavanagh walk4

All great cities have a literary heritage but there are times when Dublin seems actively haunted by its literary past. This year’s One City, One Book for Dublin is a break with the usual tradition. Instead of nominating a classic (in previous years, Strumpet City, Dracula and Dubliners, by O’Casey, Stoker and Joyce respectively, have all had their turn on the pedestal), this year an original work has been commissioned.

The book is If Ever You Go: a Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song, an anthology of poetry and lyrics featuring Dublin writers past and current. Published by the esteemed Daedalus Press and edited by Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth, it features a veritable hall of fame of writings about the city.

As well as those we might call the Usual Suspects, Joyce, Swift, Synge et al, there is a generous range of more contemporary contributors such as Eavan Boland, Dermot Bolger, Paula Meehan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and the late lamented Seamus Heaney… and of course, no survey of Dublin lyric and verse would be complete without Patrick Kavanagh.

The promotional campaign for One City, One Book is always concerned with more than just posters and radio spots: literary events are critical in raising public awareness and enthusiasm, and it’s in this spirit that NewsFour proceeds to St Stephen’s Church, aka the Pepper Canister, starting point for a guided tour called Kavanagh Country, led by Paul O’Hanrahan. The tour consists of a two hour wander from site to site around parts of Baggot Street, the Grand Canal and roads around Dublin 4 which now bear the association with the great poet and other literary greats, such as Paul Durcan and Brendan Behan.

The route of the walk leads down Herbert St, onto Baggot Street, across to the Canal for stops by the Percy French Memorial, then the bench that bears the statue of Kavanagh himself (undisturbed by the colourful alterations that students and vandals sometimes like to introduce). Crossing the water to the other memorial bench, the group is then led back onto Baggot St, to the former site of Parson’s bookshop.

At each stop, Paul gives a reading. Speaking with NewsFour after the event, he explains that his background in performance came from his years as a student in Cambridge. As a student, he fell in love, as many have, with the writings of James Joyce, going so far as to take a show based on Joyce’s work to the Edinburgh Festival in 1983. Currently, he is artistic director for the Balloonatics Theatre Company here in Dublin. His passion for the source material is obvious and his delivery is measured and engaging.

By the time the group is led to Upper Baggot Street, the locale seems charged with the significance of those writers who have lived there. We are treated to a rendition of The Hospital, which Kavanagh wrote about his time in the Royal City of Dublin Hospital. A few doors down, the façade of the Pembroke townhouse provides a natural stage for readings of Kavanagh. It’s at this point that a crane truck drives past, as if on cue, bearing the name KAVANAGH’S in large blue letters. Mentioning this to Paul, he is amused: “that’s more the sort of thing you’d expect on a Bloomsday walk.”
For more information on this and similar events, see

Above: Paul O’Hanharan sits beside the statue of Patrick Kavanagh along the Grand Canal.
Left: Paul gives a reading.

By Rúairí Conneely